Popemobile Skips Orange County's Fun Parks

Times Staff Writer

Disneyland's prayers weren't answered. Neither were Knott's Berry Farm's.

Anaheim's Magic Kingdom and Buena Park's famous berry patch were left in limbo when Pope John Paul II turned down invitations to both Orange County amusement parks.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles couldn't give its blessing to a papal visit because of the pontiff's already-brimming schedule, said Bob Roth, a Disneyland spokesman.

"Anyone would be honored to have his presence," Roth said, so three months ago Disneyland "offered to work it out" by arranging a private audience with the park before it opened to the public.

Knott's hadn't yet figured out what the Pope would do at the Berry Farm, although he was invited to the park's bicentennial celebration Thursday, spokesman Stuart Zanville said.

In fact, a papal visit wouldn't even have been a bad idea for South Coast Plaza: "I wish we'd thought of it," said Maura Eggan, marketing director at the Costa Mesa mall.

"We could have given him a credit card and a VIP parking pass. If he's a shopper . . . we probably even have those red velvet slippers he wears."

The famous folks who have visited Disneyland included at least two American Presidents: Harry S. Truman and Jimmy Carter. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev wanted to go, and Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly has asked. Even former Chief Justice Warren E. Burger has been photographed pressing flesh with the famous Mickey Mouse.

Knott's has had its share, too, playing host to Michael Jackson, Stephen Spielberg, John Wayne and Ronald Reagan, when he was governor.

But the Pope's no-show may be a blessing. The Popemobile would never have made it up Space Mountain.

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